On Monday, two Mastic Beach couples spent eight hours providing turkeys to dozens of families in need in their communities.
P.J. Balzer and his wife, Catherine Gutierrez, drove door-to-door with a trunkload of frozen birds, while Dawn Naughton and her husband, Eric, commanded a Thanksgiving dinner drive-thru from the front lawn of their Mastic Beach home.
Balzer, 39, who formed “The King’s Kids” Christian Outreach six years ago after losing his brother and turning to religion, has devoted much of his time, energy and money to helping underprivileged families in the Tri-Hamlet area.
Balzar said Mastic Beach, Mastic, Shirley has a high poverty rate, especially among children, “so we really try to step in and meet needs.”
Naughton, 47, has known Balzer and been a member of his outreach for nearly four years.
In addition to the 100 turkeys Balzer dropped off at her house early Monday morning to place in people’s trunks, Naughton also procured various side dishes to hand out.
After posting requests for donations on Facebook, the boxes and cans started cropping up at her doorstep. “I woke up one morning and there was a box of corn and mashed potatoes sitting on my stoop,” she said “I just felt like because I’ve seen [Balzer] giving back so much, that I felt I had to also.”
She also raised $240, which bolstered the stockpile of mashed potatoes, yams, canned vegetables, gravy and cranberry sauce.
“Surprisingly, I got a lot of people that were donating to me, and I store everything in my son’s room,” she said. “The poor kid — his room is small enough and then I start shoving in boxes of peas and carrots and potatoes.”
After making his rounds, Balzer picked up the leftover turkeys and sides from Naughton. Many were delivered the next day to families in North Bellport and to families in Patchogue, with some to spare. “We offered 2nd turkeys to families we know in Mastic that have large extended families living in one house,” he said in a text message.
When he first started out, Balzer said his efforts depended on plenty of leg work to earn his community’s trust. “We really started out at the bus stops, making something very simple like bologna and cheese sandwiches and just starting to reach out to the people.”
Balzer said he actively seeks areas where he believes others would be reluctant to step in and help. “We feel like we have a certain calling and a certain purpose,” he said. “And it’s really like, to go to the people that nobody else wants to go to in the streets.”
While many of his members will seek those who could use help at their local churches, Balzer said, he still prefers to seek out those he could help at their homes. “I’ll knock on the door and say, ‘How are you guys doing with food and diapers?’ and stuff like that. And you’d be surprised how people — at first they think it’s weird, like ‘This weird guy’s knocking on the door’ — but if they need diapers, I mean, it really speaks volumes.”
Now, people come to Balzer and his volunteers, like Naughton. She described her drive-thru as a touching experience, and teared up recalling one particularly excited passenger. “This one was different because I did it from my house, and that little girl that was so happy to get a turkey just really hit. There’s a lot of people who just don’t have and this little was just so happy to get a turkey. There were a couple of people who actually cried.”